26 July 2016

Think Tank: The fears of US allies, the benefits of US alliances

Image: Flickr User - KAZ Vorpal
Elsina Wainwright

Donald Trump’s recent comments on America’s alliances, coinciding with the Republican convention last week, have further raised the anxiety levels of US allies about Washington’s global role after the US presidential election.

Trump told The New York Times that the US needs to be ‘properly reimbursed’ by allies, and he would be ‘prepared to walk’ away from alliance obligations if he can’t make that deal. If Russia invaded the Baltic states he said he would first assess whether they had paid their dues before honouring NATO obligations and defending them.

Trump’s alliance skepticism is long standing and deep seated, so perhaps it’s no surprise it hasn’t moderated with the rigours of the presidential campaign—especially given how little else has moderated during his candidacy. He’s also tapping into a popular strain in the US—reflected in Bernie Sanders’ candidacy as well—questioning the value of US global engagement.

Irritation with the level of allied contributions isn’t new. Since the post-WW2 creation of the US alliance system, US strategic protection has lessened allies’ need to build their own capability.

Think Tank: Fear and caution in Hanoi

Helen Clark

The Permanent Court of Arbitration’s Arbitral Tribunal ruling against China in the South China Sea is no boon for Hanoi, at least so far.

This has been an interesting year for those of us who watch Vietnam. There’s a new government following the 12th National Congress, when powerhouse Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung was ousted after he lost in his bid to become General Secretary. That begs the question as to whether economic reform will continue and, importantly, what form the US/China balancing act will now take?

Then in April came the Formosa fish kill scandal. Taiwanese firm Formosa’s steel plant in Ha Tinh province, south of Hanoi, poisoned the ocean with a massive pollution dump, leading to the death of some 100 tonnes of fish. Unusually, protests drew in even ordinary citizens and much of the fury was over government inaction. The matter was resolved only recently.

Think Tank: After arbitration - enforcing the rules in Southeast Asia

Amelia Long

The recent award handed down by the Arbitral Tribunal through the Permanent Court of Arbitration undoubtedly favours the Philippines (PDF) and is unlikely to end Beijing’s assertive behaviour in the South China Sea. Beijing has wasted no time in rejecting the ruling, claiming it to be ‘null and void’, but the superpower isn’t likely to go running away with its tail between its legs. In fact, China has vowed to ‘take all necessary measures to protect its sovereignty in the South China Sea’, including potentially establishing an ADIZ across the region. But how other claimant and non-claimant states act in response to the Tribunal’s ruling will set an important precedent for dealing with behaviour that challenges the rules-based global order.

Despite the Tribunal concluding that ‘there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the “nine-dash line”’, China’s fishermen militia will continue to fish in areas where China believes it has overlapping maritime claims. Such challenges will be hard to counter, since Southeast Asian claimants have only limited capability to enforce their sovereignty, and a fluctuating willingness to confront China. Ideally, Southeast Asian nations would present a united front that’s both aligned with international law and remains cognizant of where the red lines lay.

Think Tank: Sea, air and land updates (26-Jul-2016)

Dione Hodgson and Lachlan Wilson

Sea State

A new report (PDF) from CSIS has warned that Russian submarine activity in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas and the North Atlantic are at their highest levels since the end of the Cold War. It found that the Russian Navy and its submarine force had remained relatively insulated from the challenges that had severely impacted Russia’s broader military modernisation strategy, and that Russian submarines are generally very capable vessels when properly maintained. The report suggested NATO and partner nations wouldn’t be able to quickly counter Russian undersea challenge in the region, due to the inability of most NATO members to meet defence spending targets, declining capabilities and a lack of integration among relevant allies. In response, it suggested NATO members and partners needed to pursue organisational reforms and a federated response to capability development.

US Vice President Joe Biden announced last Thursday that a US naval vessel would attend the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary in November. The visit will be the first time an American warship has visited the country in 33 years, after New Zealand introduced a nuclear-free policy in the 1980s. US warships were banned in NZ waters because the US wouldn’t officially confirm or deny if its ships were carrying nuclear weapons. NZ Prime Minister John Key made the invitation, stating it would appear odd if all of the nation’s other allies attended without the US, and noted that the ship would need to comply with NZ law—meaning the ship won’t have any a nuclear weapons capability.

USA: U.S., ROK navies co-host senior enlisted symposium

From U.S. Naval Forces Korea Public Affairs

U.S. and Republic of Korea (ROK) senior enlisted leaders have a photo taken together during a Combined Joint Senior Enlisted Leaders Symposium on the ROK Fleet Base in Busan. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Wesley J. Breedlove) >>

BUSAN, Republic of Korea - Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea, (CNFK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Fleet co-hosted a combined and joint senior enlisted leader symposium in Busan, July 22-23.

Thirty-two U.S. and ROK Navy and Marine Corps leaders met to strengthen the U.S. and ROK partnership by discussing shared leadership principles including ways each service can improve Sailor's and Marines' quality of life.

"It is meaningful that we gather together and discuss how we can improve our navies," said ROK Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Kim Cheon-Yong. "Because we [master chiefs] are the 'mother of the unit,' we must watch over and protect our people."

USA: Joint Statement of the Japan-United States-Australia Trilateral Strategic Dialogue

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, Fumio Kishida, the Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, Julie Bishop, met in Vientiane, Laos, on 25 July 2016, for the sixth ministerial meeting of the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue (TSD).

The ministers welcomed the growing positive impact of the strategic partnership between Japan, the United States, and Australia, and reaffirmed the importance of TSD policy coordination and practical cooperation. They reiterated their commitment to further deepening their cooperation to ensure a peaceful, stable, and prosperous future for the Asia Pacific region and the world.

The ministers reiterated the importance of upholding the rules-based maritime order including in the Asia Pacific region and the Indian Ocean. They called on all states to respect freedom of navigation and overflight. They reaffirmed the importance of states’ making and clarifying their claims based on international law, including the 1982 United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), not using force or coercion in trying to advance their claims, and seeking to settle disputes by peaceful means including through legal processes such as arbitration.

USA: Remarks Before Meeting With Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se

SECRETARY KERRY: Let me just say to my press what a pleasure it is to see Minister Yun Byung-se. The Republic of Korea and the United States obviously have very, very key issues right now, particularly the challenge of the D.P.R.K. and its irresponsible nuclear activities and its weaponization and its challenges to the stability of the region.

So between that and the partnership that we have on other security issues, including counterterrorism on an international basis, I really look forward to this conversation. I’m very grateful to our friends in Korea for their very significant contribution. There’s so many different global issues at this point, including health challenges and other challenges on a global basis. So, thank you (inaudible).

FOREIGN MINISTER YUN: Well, this is the fourth time that Secretary Kerry and I attend this ASEAN-related meeting together. Now we are facing key challenges from North Korea and – as well. So I believe this is the right time for us to send out a very clear and strong message to North Korea that our alliance is stronger, deeper, and broader than ever. So we’ll work together at the (inaudible) meetings.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you very much, everybody.

FOREIGN MINISTER YUN: Thank you.

USA: Remarks Before Meeting With Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Minister Wang Yi, thank you very much. Thank you for your welcome and thank you for the relationship that you and I have developed over three and a half years now in which we’ve worked on many, many issues. I actually talked to Susan Rice about five minutes before she saw President Xi and we had a good discussion about the important issues on which we are working right now.

I can assure you of this: President Obama wants the G20 in Hangzhou to be a success. President Obama is very much looking forward to the visit to China. And we believe very strongly that the relationship between China and the United States is, without question, one of, if not the most consequential bilateral relationships on the globe. And that is because we do cooperate on areas of such importance like Iran, the nuclear agreement, counterterrorism, climate change – where we made a huge difference together. But we also have differences that we know and we work to manage those differences in a thoughtful and effective way.

USA: Secretary Kerry's Co-Chairmanship of the ASEAN-U.S. Ministerial Meeting

The following is attributable to Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner:

Secretary Kerry met with the foreign ministers of the ten ASEAN Member States for the ASEAN-U.S. Ministerial Meeting to discuss shared priorities in the U.S.-ASEAN Strategic Partnership. This partnership commits all parties to strengthening democracy and enhancing good governance to build up a politically cohesive, economically integrated, and people-centered ASEAN Community. The United States and ASEAN are working together to uphold a rules-based regional order that protects our peace and prosperity.

The foreign ministers discussed U.S.-ASEAN Connect, an initiative that will deepen the United States’ growing economic cooperation with ASEAN through a new unifying framework focused on areas of strategic mutual interest, including innovation, energy, business engagement and policy support. They called for specific actions to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and they pledged their commitment to strengthen cooperation against terrorism and violent extremism. Secretary Kerry commended ASEAN’s achievement in endorsing the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and wholly agreed with ASEAN foreign ministers that more must be done to combat all forms of trafficking, including wildlife and timber trafficking.

Industry: Babcock establishes Australasian headquarters in Adelaide

Babcock International Group today (14 Jul 2016* ) announced it will establish its Australasian headquarters in Adelaide with the relocation of its Mission Critical Services and Offshore Services businesses to South Australia as part of the company’s aggressive regional growth strategy.

Babcock’s aviation businesses, Babcock Mission Critical Services Australasia and Babcock Offshore Services Australasia, will formally become part of an existing Adelaide based management team at a new site in the Adelaide Central Business District under an agreement with the Government of South Australia.

Babcock is a global engineering support services company incorporating assets and expertise across industries including defence, nuclear, telecommunications, transport, emergency services, minerals and energy and education industries. It operates in 16 countries and employs more than 35,000 people with annual revenues of $AUS 8billion. In Australia and New Zealand, Babcock operates in nearly every state and territory - and today employs over 700 staff.